After sculpting my own minis despite the availability of perfectly fine ranges, I am going to take another totally unnecessary bold step: writing my own rules.
As you know, so far I have been playing with He Hemetera Talassa, which is a very nice ruleset based on the Fire and Fury engine. It is one of the few rules of which I shared the basic philosophy – that fleet rules should put players in control of squadrons, not of single ships (that's a trierarch's job!). Of course I modified it accordingly to my own view of what ancient warfare was, of how I liked a game to play and also to focus it more on V century warfare, the era of the Great Persian wars and of the Peloponnesian war: the era of the triereis.
I was gonna publish my house rules here. I started putting them altogether. I then realized that, piece by piece, I had changed significantly every rule except movement! What emerged was a completely different set, which had its own design in terms of key mechanism and basic philosophy. It was only logical to take an additional step and make it as a new rules.
So you can download the first draft here below. The provisional title is Oi navarcoi! This 1.0 version has not been tested yet, but will soon be. I would be glad for you to give it a try and let me know what you think! I need playtesters!!
I want to share here a few comments on the design and basic mechanism, so you know why I made the choices I made. I wanted the game to be focused on squadrons, as in HHT. I wanted the players to be mainly focused on bringing their squadrons in melee in good order, and in the most advantageous positions compared to the enemy. After that, players will need to rely on their trierarchs, crews, and on the God’s (i.e., on the dices).
I wanted players to be able to give orders to the whole fleet. However, if I cast the players only as the strategos, the overall commander, it would be boring because the strategoi's degree of control during battle was very limited. Their major task was to define a battle plan the evening before, with their trierachs and navarcoi, after dinner. So I came out with the idea of signals, which provide an advantage to the player who did develop some general idea of a plan, but still let him play his squadrons.
I wanted to keep everything simple. I choose a 2d6 test for all core mechanism. This is used for manouvers, melee and morale tests. It provides me with a nice curve of results and allows me to control results easily. It does not work well with many modifiers, but then I did not want many modifiers!
I wanted a game were the overall context of a battle is crucial, otherwise it can easily become a “line them up and roll dices” affair. This is why I adopted (stole…) the side exit idea from Check your Six, which makes it important to control the sea lanes as an additional task for the strategoi, and also why I am developing the scenarios, which will provide specific objectives and challenges.
I wanted the specificities of V century warfare in. I wanted amphibian actions embedded into the rules, since so many battles had a land dimension (Cyzicus, Philos…). I wanted melee as an attritional affair, with both squadrons to slowly grind down until one’s morale would suddenly break. I assume a melee between squadrons of similar strength and morale would probably very soon degenerate into a free-for-all furball of individual duels. Admirals would lose what little command and command and control capability they had, and both squadrons would gradually lose coherence. Both would lose a ship at the time, until one of the two sides suddenly would realize it was getting overcome and would lose morale and give up, leaving the field in disorder.
I developed the diekplous and periplous as specific manouvers. The attempted diekplous can conclude in 4 different ways (see here for my view on what the diekplous is). If it is successful, the performing squadron performs a breakthrough and can then attack the enemy from the back. It can be aborted on time, with the attacking squadron that realizes it is going to fail and is able to perform an anastrophe and reform away from the enemy. It can fail badly, with the defender equally messed up its manouver and thus generating a messy melee, with everyone involved already disordered. Or the attackers screw up badly, they cannot breakthrough but are not even able to stop in time and crash disorderly into the defending squadron. Then the diekplous becomes a normal melee during which the attacking squadron will have a disadvantage.
These results make the diekplous an interesting choice for an admiral, but only in the right conditions! An average crew attempting it against another average crew would be successful only 20% and will disastrously fail 20%. Half of the times, 52%, the manoeuvre will be aborted with no damage, while around 8% will generate a messy melee. Hardly enticing, but could still be a choice if you really need to get a squadron out real fast... If the target squadron is poor, the success rate is 1 out of 3 that it works fine and just 1 out of 6 will end up in a katastrophe. This appears to be a more rational choice even if you are not in dire straits. If you have an elite squadron and are so lucky to face a poor one, then diekplous looks positively a good choice: it will work fine 35% of the time and fail only 9%!
Periplous would also be used with similar results as a diekplous when successful, but with a specific twist widely reported by ancient sources. If the periplous target unit was able to counter the periplous effectively, both squadrons ended up engaging in a race towards the open sea, as each tried to overcome the other in order to turn around its flank.
And that’s pretty much it. I am aiming for very simple rules that reflects only the key dynamics of V century naval warfare. I am looking forward to receive your feedback!